Jun 29, 2016

Lessons Learned #7: Information Systems are a Mess

Information management is key to making data-driven decisions.  But, what if you don’t have access to good data?  It turns out that sound information management in our modern world is driven by complex information management systems.  And, these systems drive the agenda and monitor the success of the major functions of our schools, such as enrollment management, fundraising, academic advising, and business management.  And, it turns out that they are a real challenge at most schools and colleges.

Most of the schools and colleges with which we have served in the past 12 years have struggled – at one time or another – with information management.  The challenges typically fall into three categories:

  1. Most Common Issue > They are running several, perhaps five, premium software modules throughout the school and cannot integrate their systems. This means they have an absence of real-time data input, retrieval, and analysis.  This problem means the organization has high levels of technological adoption but low levels of integration and insight.
  2. Somewhat Common Issue > They are running one complex, comprehensive, and integrated system designed to do all major functions and yet it does none of them well.  There often might be a “super user” in an area or two that keeps functionality moving forward, but most users are ill-equipped to manage the system.  This problem means the organization has forced adoption but low levels of use. 
  3. Least Common Issue > They are running a small set of “one off” or “home grown” information management systems built on traditional products, such as Access, Excel, and other similar software.  The systems are stand alone, not integrated, and are used by only a few people.  This problem means the organization has low levels of adoption, as well as low levels of use.

If these are the challenges, what is best practice?  We see schools and colleges that have adopted a suite of integrated systems across the various functions of the organization that have well-trained people in each unit.  And, these people train and assist others in their unit, adding to the on-site usage.  

So, Lessons Learned #7 is that information systems are a mess at many schools and colleges.  While information management is a critical component of a mature organization, many private schools and colleges are just not where they need to be at this time.

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